Tag Archives: trees

Silver Linings

As I mentioned in a recent post, some form of deliberate management of our climate is an unavoidable necessity. In reality, that’s what all the talk of reducing emissions is about. If we want to be able to control what impact we have on our climate, emissions reduction will not be enough. We’ve already destabilized things, and there is virtually no chance that they will regain stability on their own.

The key to regulating our climate greenhouse gas levels. An increase in CO2 is what caused the warming, and a significant decrease would at the very least slow it. The problem is that even if we were to cut emissions enough that we’re no longer adding to the problem, we don’t have any technology capable of efficiently pulling CO2 out of the atmosphere. Fortunately, we don’t need a high-tech solution.

The solution is trees. There’s nothing revolutionary, controversial, or new about saying this; the tree-hugger stereotype is older than I am. As with the basic thermodynamics behind the current warming, the idea behind planting trees is quite simple. Trees are primarily made of water, drawn from the ground, and carbon dioxide, drawn from the air. As long as you have sufficient water, trees will pull carbon dioxide out of the air, and sequester it in themselves.

This same “equation” is also why the clear-cutting (and often burning) of the world’s rainforests is such a problem – all of that carbon, which had been kept in fairly stable storage by the forests – has been added to the atmosphere along with the emissions from fossil fuel use and livestock. Fortunately, that particular smoke cloud has a silver lining.

If – and only if – the world starts to work together to deal with this problem, the one of the first steps could be replanting as much of the cleared rainforest as possible. This would, of course, have to be done while fossil fuel use was phased out, but a new study has indicated that secondary tropical forests absorb carbon faster than the old-growth forests they would be replacing. In other words – a massive, world-wide replanting effort could create a significant dip in atmospheric CO2 levels, slow the warming, and perhaps even slow or stop the various feedback loops that have already started.

In order to get to the point where we could make this scenario a reality, we would have to overcome the current obstacles of politics and greed, so instead I’ll briefly focus on the obstacle of human necessity. While some of the formerly forested land goes to crops like palm oil, a significant portion also goes to growing food, and by the time we get around to planting on a global scale, the number of humans needing to eat will be even greater than it is today. That means that any effort to replant forests will have to come after an arrangement to ensure food supplies for those currently fed by the farms we’d be planting over.

Dealing with this problem would require a more equitable system of food distribution – one concerned with getting food into mouths, rather than money into pockets (though we can’t ignore the latter entirely), but it will also require new methods of food production. If we want to plant trees where farms exist today, and we want to avoid mass starvation on a scale that wasn’t even possible a few decades ago, then we will not be able to maintain the current conventions of farming, industrial or otherwise.

As the climate continues to warm, weather conditions will become less reliable from year to year. When you combine that with a need for food production to take up less space, and an increasing global population, that points in the direction of multi-story indoor farming. Thus far, it’s a concept that has remained largely in the realm of science fiction or unrealized “concept designs”, but we ought to be taking it more seriously. Moving farming indoors is not romantic, and it feels like a step away from everything we know, but as I’ve said before, we’re effectively living on an alien planet, and maybe it’s time for science fiction solutions.

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(Ir)responsibility

I am part of a generation that inherited the crisis of global climate change. By the time I was able to vote, the problem had already been swept under the carpet for almost fifty years. I get all kinds of reactions talking to people who’re over fifty years old. Some have been working on it all along. Some are starting to get involved. Some, like with all age groups, are in denial. Some tell me that this is something young people have to deal with – that it’s our problem now.

This last is one I hear less than I used to, but I still hear it too much. I hear it from people who also call my generation, and those behind me, selfish, greedy, uncaring, disrespectful, and irresponsible, and it still astonishes me that people who claim to care so much about responsibility are looking for ways to blame younger people for the society they’re growing up in.

I had parents who DID teach me responsibility, and that’s great, but at the same time, I grew up watching adults throw trash out their car windows, and watching our political “leaders” lie regularly, and watching other adults being PROUD of their ability to lie, cheat, or con for personal gain.

And while I was growing up, the same people who are now calling younger generations irresponsible were blithely ignoring DECADES of research and warnings about the damage they were doing.

What’s really maddening about all this is that these same people are still, for the most part, the ones with the most power.

There’s this kid in Germany, Felix Finkbeiner, who’s fighting against climate change. He’s starting a movement to plant trees around the world, inspired by the work of women in Africa, and he’s making a difference. The video is worth watching.

It’s an inspiring video, but since when did we leave it to our children to worry about the future of the world while we go and play with money? How is that responsible. This child is going before a group of wealthy and powerful adults and begging for his future. The first time he went to ask for help, not only did nobody volunteer, they laughed about it. One Euro per ton of chocolate? ONE?

He had to ask twice for even that paltry sum?

And HIS generation is the greedy irresponsible one?

I do NOT advocate violence, but sometimes it astonishes me that we don’t see gangs of teenagers destroying drilling and mining equipment and claiming self defense.

We shouldn’t be inspired into action because of this, we should be shamed into action. This child is forced to do this because the adults who SHOULD be caring for his future are busy breaking it apart and selling it off like addicts looking for their next fix. Good for Felix – I’m grateful for what he’s doing, but this whole situation is disgusting.